On in 15 – Summer Short
Directed BY JOSEPH ARCHER
In our Summer Short with the NYFA, we were telling the story of a band who are just about to perform at the biggest gig of their career, except their frontman becomes unconscious 15 minutes before they go on stage. In the chaotic comedy-drama, set in 1997, the band race against the clock to revive their knocked out singer before the concert starts.
However, we didn’t want to shoot this in a conventional style, but instead film it in one continuous 15-minute shot, or a “oner” as it is nicknamed by filmmakers.
This style, also known as a or “long take”, has been seen in feature films such as the Oscar-winning Birdman and Berlin-set Victoria.
Thematically the reason for doing this in our short film, was On In 15 is about a band preparing for a live performance, which are uninterrupted, spontaneous and usually manic.
Also with live events you only have one shot, and the band only have one shot at this gig, so it is fitting that it all takes place in one shot. So filming it in one take will make sure the film can be as close to a stage performance as possible.
Visually the reason for doing this is in one continuous shot is the film’s story follows the band being thrown into a chaotic, fast-paced and intense situation. This will work best with a “oner” because the camera movement and suspense brought by the one continuous shot will keep the audience locked into the theatrics and the narrative.
The script had been crafted by it’s writer, Jack Archer, to keep a pace and flow that would allow an oner to be achieved effectively.
Also I love doing long takes. I have always included them in my films, so I really wanted to challenge myself, the cast and crew with doing a whole film in one shot.
How we did it
To overcome this filmmaking challenge it meant blocking the scene with the actors so every movement the camera made was motivated and entertaining to watch for the audience. It was important that key camera movements complimented comedic beats in the script.
This took three days of planning and rehearsals in a room at The University in Greenwich. We set up the rehearsal room so it mimicked the shooting location, the Ovalhouse Theatre in south London.
Our cam-op and cinematographer Dom, used an Easyrig Vario 5 with Serene Arm. This rig, rented from Procam, allowed him to perform the complicated camera movements and multiple takes without sustaining fatigue.
The type of shot we were going for even meant we had to be selective about actors. I had to choose actors with a theatre background, who are used to keeping up a performance for extended periods of time, experienced in meeting several marks and are prepared to improvise if things go wrong.
After one more day of rehearsing, we moved into our set at the Ovalhouse Theatre. It took a day to build the lighting rigs and set dress the space so it would look like the green room of a 1990s venue. Then the crew set up the wireless follow focus system and sound recorders. Each actor had a radio mic so we would not need a Boom Operator in the room.
We had time to do three run-throughs of the 15-minute scene to check all the equipment and lighting.
Then came along the big day! We had one day to get the shot, if we didn’t get it, we wouldn’t have a film. But luckily, on the last and sixth take of the day, we got. Every actor hit their marks perfectly, every camera movement flowed and the take’s pacing was sublime.
We also filmed a take using a 360 camera, so people with VR headsets will be able to watch the film in a 3D space.
Our editor Floyd is producing a BTS documentary about the week-long production of this film that we hope to release soon. It will reveal more of the work, details and stress that went into producing this ambitious and complicated film.
On the date of publishing, the edit of On In 15 is going through its final phase, with sound engineering work and producing the credits.
We will then start firing it off to film festivals. So hopefully we will see you at a screening of it in the next couple of months!
I just want to say thanks so much to the NYFA, who believed in the script and gave it the funding it needed to be produced. Also to Procam who gave us a sizeable discount on essential equipment for the film.
And finally to the cast and crew. For such young filmmakers and actors, you were confident, talented and had unceasing amounts of energy.
There was a high probability we couldn’t have executed this complicated film, but I think it was everyone’s trust, drive and professionalism that secured its success. And for that I am extraordinarily grateful.
Thanks for reading and hope you get a chance to watch On In 15 soon!